Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Introducing our Artists - The Mermen

In our continuing effort to introduce ourselves, we are once again pleased to introduce you to our artist "The Mermen" with whom we have released At The Haunted House, Food For Other Fish, Kril Slippin’, and most recently The Amazing California Health And Happiness Road Show.

On his classic 1967 album Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix quipped “You’ll never hear surf music again,” thus ending an era of three minute, twangy, oceanic rhapsodies like “Pipeline” and “Stick Shift” and “Wipeout.” Hendrix’s soaring guitar instantly obliterated the past, making the world rife with fresh possibilities, and exiling the generic to the oldies bin. But sadly the Voodoo Chile didn’t stick around long enough to hear The Mermen, San Francisco’s premier psychedelic surf trio (who took their name from his song “1983 (A Merman I Shall Turn To Be).”

Jim Thomas, the band’s guitarist/composer sites surf lord Dick Dale, country rock Telecaster master Clarence White, gypsy jazzman Django Reinhardt, the amphetamine rush of punk rockers The Dead Kennedys and, of course, psychedelic guitar-god archetype Jimi Hendrix as the prime source of his inspiration. He formed The Mermen, an instrumental trio, in 1988 as a garage band that specialized in obscure surf nuggets from yesteryear. But in short time they developed their own sonic concoction of one part shimmering melody, one part trippy improvisation and one part hardcore overdrive garnished with plenty of chops to spare. “Two guys that instantly come to mind are Ravi Shankar and Neil Young. When you watch them play, they’re digging into that same place. Their music is completely different, but it’s that creative well, and that’s what I’m trying to get at,” states Thomas.

Jazz critic Ira Gitler once attempted to describe tenor saxophonist John Coltrane’s massive tone pouring out of his instrument as “sheets of sound.” If that’s the case, it could be said that The Mermen’s swelling guitar chords and thundering drums create a crescendo that truly captures “the swells of the ocean.” Unlike Beach Boy Brian Wilson who sat alone on the beach composing tomes to the surfing life, Thomas is the genuine article. When he’s not on stage, Jim can be found down at Half Moon Bay, riding the waves. He’s a genuine outgrowth of surf culture and communicates the lifestyle through his compositions. Championship surfers Ken Bradshaw and Grant Washburn both dig The Mermen, claiming the band makes “music that communicates to real surfers.”

With the release of their first CD Food For Other Fish in 1994, The Mermen’s popularity began to rise in Bay Area clubs while their disc crested at #3 on local station KUSF-FM. One year later, A Glorious Lethal Euphoria won the 1995 Bammie (Bay Area Music Award) for the “Outstanding Independent Album” of the year. Their name also appeared on several best of lists, including Guitar Player and Guitar World, while receiving accolades from Rolling Stone and Alternative Press. The band, which soon became the hottest ticket in the Bay Area, sold out shows at The Warfield Theatre and The Fillmore, while opening for everyone from David Byrne to Nancy Sinatra, from Rancid to Tiny Tim. This was followed by ’96’s six-song EP entitled Song Of The Cows, and a national tour that won the band critical praise in every corner of the country. And then, right when it seemed as if The Mermen were poised to explode in a major way, here was slence. To stay true to the ocean metaphors, there was a proverbial low tide in the band’s creativity. “It was a time for pulling back. I built a recording studio and began exploring new music,” says Thomas. “By refocusing, I was able to push it a bit further.”

The Mermen have now re-emerged ready for the next wave. The group’s latest disc The Amazing California Health & Happiness Road Show plunges you ears-first into a primordial swamp of sound (fins and all), and then takes you for a sultry sidestroke around the moon. Three years in the making, Jim Thomas has proven himself a truly charmed songwriter and composer, orchestrating The Mermen’s best album to date. Whether the band can recapture the success of previous years remains to be seen, but for Thomas when inspiration is flowing it’s worth the chase.

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